Monday, February 02, 2009
While I am still confident that the Amersons are in a safe financial/employment place, things are certainly not going well up here. Seattle was somewhat protected from the dropping housing prices and loss of jobs that affected much of the country last year. It wasn't until late 2008 that housing prices started to slide, and in January 2009 tens of thousands of layoffs were announced--affecting everyone from baristas to Boeing machinists to Microsoft employees. Times are hard in Seattle.
About a month or go, it was announced that the state of Washington decided not to honor the labor contracts they signed with both my union (SEIU 1099) and Ethan's union (WFSE) back in June/July of 2008. Our contracts were to give us modest raises over the next 2 years. Ethan's union strives to get their employees up to at least 80% of what you would make if you DIDN'T work for the state (people can make a lot more going into a labor hall and signing up for work that way). My union strives to get close to what Swedish Medical Center provides for their employees. We never reach their benefits, but we try to get in the vicinity. Now, all of that is gone, or at least in serious jeopardy. Ethan's modest 2% raise is not coming (and they don't give us cost of living raises except when negotiated into a contract, so he gets NOTHING), nor is the additional 2% that was supposed to come in another year. I was set for a total of 7% over the two years, divided up into 2.5% packages. Now, nada. It absolutely blows my mind that a contract negotiated and SIGNED and voted on over 6 months ago is now not being honored.
Harborview Medical Center is doing everything they can to avoid layoffs, but we did cancel the hiring of ~20 new nurses just days before they were due to begin work. This all at the same time when newspaper headlines blare that healthcare (and specifically nursing), jobs are the safest place to be right now, and a field in great demand. Not in Seattle. Some hospitals with nurse layoffs, others like ours are not hiring, and we are all cutting back on overtime. What that means for patients is that their nurse may be too busy to properly care for them. Does that sound dangerous to anyone other than me??? We are giving NO overtime, and running a nurse short a lot of the time. Two nurses short sometimes. Our managers are now helping with floor nursing care. This is scary.
And in the paper today, they announce that the state wants to cut Medicaid-GAU funding. This is for people with medical conditions that will make them unable to work for at least 3 months who have no money and need help. It gives them about $300 a month and provides health insurance (sucky health insurance, but at least it is SOMETHING) Now, they have no money, significant health problems, and NO insurance whatsoever. We have a hard time discharging these patients from the hospital to nursing homes, etc because the nursing homes get very little reimbursement from this health plan, so they don't want to take the patient (they end up breaking even or losing money caring for some patients). Which means they sit at Harborview in a $2000+ a night bed that they don't need, wasting taxpayer money. Not a good program to cut at all. Harborview occasionaly 'sponsors' a patient who has no funding, where we will pay the entire cost of that patient going to a nursing home or rehab facility or home health, etc just to get them out of the much spendier hospital. Our charity programs are already overwhelmed, and we are now dumping even more patients into that spot. Hard times, indeed.